"Bird, Plane, Bacteria? Microbes Thrive In Storm Clouds"

"Microbes are known to be able to thrive in extreme environments, from inside fiery volcanoes to down on the bottom of the ocean. Now scientists have found a surprising number of them living in storm clouds tens of thousands of feet above the Earth. And those airborne microbes could play a role in global climate."

"It's been known for a long time that there are microscopic life forms floating around high above our heads. Researchers have collected them from the air above rain forests and mountains. They've found them in snow and hail. And since the 1920s, they've sometimes used planes to collect samples.

Even Charles Lindbergh tried his hand at aerial microbiology. Six years after his historic trans-Atlantic flight, he used a tube-shaped contraption called a 'sky hook' to collect fungi and pollen from a red-winged monoplane.

But most sampling efforts to date have been over land and close to the Earth's surface. Athanasios Nenes, an atmospheric chemist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, says we still don't know much about which microbes are living high up in the atmosphere or way out over the ocean."

Véronique LaCapra reports for NPR's Morning Edition January 29, 2013.

Source: NPR, 01/29/2013